On a cold Friday morning in January 2007, a young man in jeans, T-shirt and baseball cap entered the Washington Metro at the L-Enfant Plaza station during the middle of rush hour, opened a violin case, took out his violin, and began to play – nothing unusual about that scenario since musicians frequent Metro stops on many mornings. For the next 43 minutes, this violinist played 6 pieces, including works by Bach, Schubert, and Massenet.
Of the 1097 people who passed by during that 43 minutes, only a handful stopped even briefly to listen or to throw some money into the open case at the musician’s feet. Everyone was in a hurry to get to work and couldn’t be bothered to stop. By now, most of you may know the story I’m referring to, but in case you don’t, or want to see where this post is going, . . . Continue reading →
It’s been a long time since my last post and this one is a continuation, so if you’re new to this blog, or if you don’t remember the previous post about the importance of learning a musical instrument for developing executive function skills, you may want to re-read it before continuing here.
Briefly, the three key areas of executive function are inhibition (being able to control attention, behavior, and emotions); working memory (important for critical thinking and reasoning); and cognitive flexibility (seeing things from different perspectives – thinking “outside the box”). Reasoning, problem solving and planning are all built on these three key areas of executive function.
And adults and children who have studied music have been shown to have stronger executive function skills. Which brought us to the question at the end of the previous post: did these children and adults gravitate towards studying music because they already had stronger EF skills, or did studying music promote those skills? Another researcher may have the answer.
Most of us have more to do than time to do it. We juggle family and job responsibilities, friends, household management, social media, errands, plus a great deal more. And for those of us who are musicians, we’re always trying to find practice time at our instrument. How well we’re able to manage the competing demands in our lives and actually get things done depends on a set of cognitive processes under the umbrella term of executive function.
Good executive function (EF) makes it possible for us to manage ourselves and our resources – to prioritize, stay focused on the task at hand, manage our time, think before acting, be flexible and creative when the unexpected occurs, and maintain some semblance of emotional control when someone challenges us and we may feel like striking back in an inappropriate way.
Good executive function has been found to predict school readiness and success in school at all grade levels, even more than IQ. And significantly for this series of posts about “why study music,” numerous studies have shown that learning to play a musical instrument and studying music improves executive functioning not only in children but also in adults. Continue reading →